We recently reported about a Florida community testing autonomous school shuttles. Babcock Ranch had partnered with global mobility company Transdev, to have the self-driving vehicle transport kids to and from the K-7 Babcock Neighborhood School.
This past Friday, Transdev has been ordered by the U.S. Department of Transportation(USDOT) to cease all activity on the test program immediately. While we hate to see research stifled, we can understand where the USDOT is coming from. Any tests involving people, especially children, must adhere to the strictest of guidelines and it seems Transdev failed to do that.
The NHTSA said in a press release “The U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has issued a letter directing Transdev North America to immediately stop transporting school children in the Babcock Ranch community in Southwest Florida on the EZ10 Generation II driverless shuttle.”
Transdev Autonomous School Bus Shuttle Pilot Program Shut Down by NHTSA
The NHSTA called the program illegal and said the company failed to disclose pertinent information. According to the report, it seems that the company did not properly request permission to use the shuttle as a school bus. Transdev’s autonomous vehicle did not meet federal standards to transport school children.
“In March 2018, NHTSA granted Transdev permission to temporarily import the driverless shuttle for testing and demonstration purposes. Transdev requested permission to use the shuttle for a specific demonstration project, not as a school bus. Transdev failed to disclose or receive approval for this use. School buses are subject to rigorous Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards that take into account their unique purpose of transporting children, a vulnerable population.”
This seems like a massive misstep by the company and the town of Babcock Ranch. Transdev operates in many countries around the globe so there is no excuse for not properly following guidelines.
Public Safety Must Come Before Innovation
“Innovation must not come at the risk of public safety,” said Heidi King, NHTSA Deputy Administrator. “Using a non-compliant test vehicle to transport children is irresponsible, inappropriate, and in direct violation of the terms of Transdev’s approved test project,”
To be fair, we haven’t heard Transdev’s side of the story as they’ve yet to release a statement. When they do, we will provide an update and hopefully, it will shed some light on what exactly went wrong.
Check out our article on self-driving taxis in Japan and Uber’s that take to the sky.